|The shop stood at the corner of Avenue Road and Newton Road. It was begun in the front hall of the bungalow (no. 196) by Mr Desborough. As trade progressed, the need for more space was overcome in June 1959 when an application was made to council planning for a lock-up shop, at 198 Avenue Road, by Mr. Beecham (perhaps the builder rather than owner?), and it was then built in the garden. In the late 1960s it was kept by the Chapman family.
In the mid 1970s I worked for Mr Oswald "Ossie" Keys and his wife Beryl. They took on this little shop and under their care it flourished and served the community well. They added a Post Office service to the general store and also sold newpapers. A delivery service meant customers could ring up with an order for delivery on any morning before lunch.
I worked just two mornings a week, to give Ossie chance to do the book-keeping. My first task would be to drive into Rushden to fetch the bread from Mr Keech's bakery in High Street and also to call at Miller's Cash & Carry in Albert Road to collect stock.
When I got back to the shop with the bread and goods, the car (a white Fiat estate car) was unloaded and the goods packed away. The orders had been prepared and I now loaded up ready to deliver to Newton Bromswold, Yelden, Avenue Road, Newton Road, Bedford Road, and Airfield Farm on the Chelveston Road.
The owners of the shop were Mr Desborough, then Burgess, Saddington, 1960s Chapman, 1970 Beryl & Ossie Keys, 1976 Gloria & Dennis Watts, 1979 John & Pam Lane and lastly Gill & Ian Poole. The shop closed in 2006, and has been demolished along with the bungalow, with two very large detached houses now occupying the plot.
Fetching the Bread
If I had to wait for a batch of bread to come out of the oven, I would watch the confectioner putting fillings into tarts or cream into the vanilla slices. The baker was often making rolls and I was quite fascinated to watch these procedures. The dough was made in a large mixer and then turned out onto the big wooden table to be divided up. This was done with a half-moon shaped cutter that was rocked into the dough and the portion was then lifted onto the scales to weigh the certain amount for the loaf - small or large. The dough was left in little heaps on the table and when all had been divided and check-weighed, it was then time to knead it and drop it into the right size of tin or lay it on a baking sheet. The tins or baking sheets were then put into the steam cupboard for proving where the dough would rise to double its original size. (I had, in my childhood, often stood helping my grandma to make bread and teacakes so I knew the process, but had never seen it on this scale. Today it is mostly done in factory proportions!) Then when all the tins were filled by the swollen dough they were put into the ovens. The bread rolls were made by putting a certain amount of dough into another machine that would divide it into sections, and then the baker would knead each little bundle into the required roll, bap or twist and assemble them onto another baking sheet. These would follow the loaves into the steamer and then into the oven. The smell was superb!
The cakes were my favourites. Pieces of pastry were each put into a paper case and then into a press to make tart cases and then they were filled with jam from large buckets and sponge or cream or whatever on top. Sometimes the vanilla slices were being assembled when I got there - two long pieces of cooked puff pastry - one was spread with jam and piped with cream before the top pastry was laid on top and then iced. The icing was white and then chocolate lines were piped down the length and then a metal skewer was pulled across the lines to make the familiar wavy stripes. The final job was cutting the whole into individual cakes and this was done by first marking the top using a "gadget" that had lots of blade-like rollers - it could be pulled out to the required width for each slice and the little rollers made a mark through the icing, then a very sharp knife was used to cut each. (My first job after I left school in 1962 was in a bank in High Street and we would go to Mr Keech's shop fairly regularly, to fetch cream buns at 3d a piece, for coffee break. Now I was seeing how they had been made and all that cream - yummy! Mr Keech's synthetic cream was the best in town.) I rarely saw larger cakes being made as they were cooked the afternoon of the day before so that they were cold and ready to be decorated or filled.